For years now resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, has intrigued and confounded researchers. It has repeatedly been linked to antiaging benefits, demonstrating antiatherosclerosis effects in animal studies and inspiring a $720 million buyout at GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK).
Now, researchers in China say that they have zeroed in on a pathway in the gut that may help explain resveratrol's potential in fighting heart disease while pointing to new therapeutic strategies that could be followed up on in the clinic.
Publishing their work in mBio, an open-access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology, the researchers determined that the red wine compound "reduces levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a known contributor to the development of atherosclerosis. They also found that resveratrol inhibits TMA production by gut bacteria; TMA is necessary for the production of TMAO."
"In our current study, we found that resveratrol can remodel the gut microbiota including increasing the Bacteroidetes-to-Firmicutes ratios, significantly inhibiting the growth of Prevotella, and increasing the relative abundance of Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Akkermansia in mice. Resveratrol reduces TMAO levels by inhibiting the gut microbial TMA formation via remodeling gut microbiota," said Man-tian Mi, principal investigator of the study and a researcher at the Research Center for Nutrition and Food Safety, Institute of Military Preventive Medicine, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China.
Gut microbiota have become a central target among a new group of biotechs which have been taking shape over the past two years. Now the field can add a compound that has inspired a host of discovery-stage studies, but has only slowly advanced in clinical studies.
GlaxoSmithKline acquired Sirtris, a would-be pioneer in the field, for $720 million back in 2008. But after slow progress, the work was absorbed by the GSK R&D operations in Philadelphia close to three years ago.